PINE BLUFF -- Prior to Saturday night's game against the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Southern quarterback and Pine Bluff native Ladarius Skelton noted that he wasn't interested in getting any style points in his return home.
But the former three-time all-state performer and 2016 Landers Award winner left Simmons Bank Field in style anyway after leading the Jaguars to a convincing victory.
Skelton accounted for 204 yards of offense and ran for three touchdowns, including a back-breaking score in the fourth quarter, as Southern beat the Golden Lions 31-7 in front of an animated crowd of 6,863.
"I just wanted to focus up and do the little things right so I could perform well on the field," Skelton said. "I didn't play as great as I wanted to. We got the win though. But there's nothing like playing in front of your city.
"You know when you come into Pine Bluff, you smell Pine Bluff. I was in a deep sleep on the ride here, but I woke up from that deep sleep because I was just happy to be home."
Skelton hadn't played in his hometown since 2015 when he led the Zebras to the Class 6A state championship, but the junior made sure the homecoming wouldn't be wasted. He completed 17 of 25 passes for 157 yards and 2 interceptions and had scoring runs of 4, 5 and 19 yards to help Southern (2-3, 1-0 Southwestern Athletic Conference) knock off UAPB for the seventh consecutive season.
The Jaguars finished with 277 yards rushing, with Christopher Chaney leading the way with 107 yards on 12 carries. Devon Benn added 94 yards on 26 carries, while Skelton chipped in with 47 yards on 8 attempts.
Southern's defense limited UAPB to 336 yards of offense and came up with four interceptions.
"We figured if we could somehow slow their offense down, then our offense could move the football when we got the chance," Southern Coach Dawson Odums said. "[UAPB] is a good football team, and they were 3-1 for a reason. They were scoring a lot of points offensively, but we thought if we could frustrate the quarterbacks and make it tough on them throwing the ball, we'd have a pretty good chance to come out of here with a win."
UAPB (3-2, 1-1) averaged 191 yards rushing through the first four games but was held to just 61 against the Jaguars. The Golden Lions played without leading rusher KeShawn Williams because of a leg injury, and with him out, the bulk of the groundwork shifted to Taeyler Porter, who had a tough time finding open lanes against a Southern defense that came into the game ranked first in the SWAC against the run. Porter ended with 59 yards on 19 carries.
"[Southern] had a lot to do with that," UAPB Coach Cedric Thomas said of his team's struggles on the ground. "We knew early in the week that KeShawn probably wouldn't play, but that team is great against the run anyway. So the game plan wasn't to run them over.
"But we thought we could be more efficient in the passing game and take some matchups. ... That was the disappointing part."
Quarterback Shannon Patrick was 16 of 26 for 159 yards and 3 interceptions for the Golden Lions, who were within 14-7 late in the third quarter before Skelton broke the game open with two touchdown runs over an 11-minute span.
Skelton's 4-yard touchdown with 3:46 left in the first quarter polished off a 12-play, 80-yard drive and gave the Jaguars a 7-0 lead. Southern opened a 14-point cushion nearly three minutes later when defensive end Joe Davis intercepted a screen pass from UAPB's Skyler Perry at the Jaguars' 45 and returned it 21 yards to the Golden Lions' 34. Jarod Sims scored from the 3 for a 14-0 Southern advantage.
Running back Omar Allen capped a 3-play, 25-yard possession with a 13-yard touchdown with 12:14 to go in the second quarter to make it 14-7.
Southern pushed its lead to 21-7 at the 3:48 mark of the third quarter on Skelton's 19-yard run, but the Jaguars put the game away on his 5-yard score to cap a back-breaking 11-play, 95-yard drive. The TD came after UAPB failed to score after having first and goal from the Jaguars' 7.
"That killed us, and it killed me," Thomas said. "That was very deflating because we've got 10 starters back on offense and two quarterbacks that have been playing at a high level. But the most important component to this game is that football.
"I tell them all the time, don't give it to the other team."
Sports on 09/29/2019
Print Headline: Golden Lions can't tame PB native